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[slide "Teaching Students to Make Socially Aware Games"]Hi I'm Bonnie Ruberg. I am a post-doc at USC and assistant professor at UC Irvine. This talk is called "Teaching Students to make socially aware games" and a heads up it's gonna involve a lot of me talking quickly, involves photos of animals, and it involves feelings, so, lets do this.[slide (picture bearded white male)]First a shout-out to my college Jeff Watson of.. we proposed this talk together, and I'm gonna try and do my best to channel my inner Jeff.[slide (Victorian soapbox adverts boy/girl)]It used to be that GDC "soapbox" talks were called "rants". "Soapbox sound friendlier and less angry, right. Looks here's some adorable children standing on soapboxes, that one has a kitten.[slide "SCREW THAN KITTEN. THIS IS A RANT"]Screw. That. Kitten. This. Is. A. Rant. I am angry and you should be too.[slide (pictures of Queen Elizabeth II)]By the way when you Google image search "angry people", you get women hitting men with frying pans, that's some gender nonsense, here is the Queen of England, apparently people think she looks angry. Good for her.[slide (movie: fire extinguisher)]So, why am I angry. The world is in flames. Higher education, the arts, and knowledge itself are all under attack. This country and many around the World are rapidly becoming less safe for people who are different. Women, LGBT people. People of colour. Immigrants. And people of different religions. If that fills you with rage, good. Rage is how the body resists.[slide "A well-stocked arsenal of anger is a useful tool against those oppressions, both personal and institutional, which brought that anger into being." - Audrey Lorde]Here's a quote from black feminist activist Audrey Lorde. She was writing in 1981, but this totally applies today. "A well-stocked arsenal of anger is a useful tool against those oppressions, personal and institutional, which brought that anger into being.".[slide (various college(?) game course logos)]OK so the worlds on fire and we're angry. Lets talk about games education. Games education is in a period of rapid growth right now. We know that. Established programs are getting bigger, new game programs are starting all the time, this is the, key, moment, for laying the groundwork that will shape what games education looks like for decades to come. Here's where the ranting starts.[slide "Teaching Students to Make Socially-Aware Games"]So I told you this was called "Teaching students to make socially-aware games", but a more, fitting title might be something like...[slide "Video Games Are Expressions of Culture, Goddamn it, and It Is Ethically Irresponsible of Us as Educators and Human Beings, Especially Given the Garbage Fire That Is Politics Today, to Send Our Students out into the World without Teaching Them to Think about the Fact that the Work They Produce Exists in a Broader Social Context - Like, to Seriously Think about That and Actually Care"]Video games are expressions of culture, goddamn it, and it is ethically irresponsible of us as educators and human beings, especially given the garbage fire that is politics today, to send out students out into the World without teaching them to think about the fact that the work they produce exists in a broader social context - like, to seriously think about that and actually care. [mild applause].[side "Teaching Students to Make Games under Fascism"]Or, if you want a snappier title, lets just go with "teaching students to make games under fascism".[slide "TEACHING STUDENTS TO MAKE GAMES IS NOT ENOUGH"]So. Even with all the wonderful things that we're accomplishing in games education today, I want to tell you that it is not enough. It's not enough to produce great developers with top technical skills. It's not enough to graduate students with polished portfolios who land industry jobs. It's not enough to teach students to make games. They need to know that games have meaning. They need to learn to make games that don't just replicate all the things that are already wrong with video games, like, all those implicit and explicit biases that we see all around us. Whether our students like it or not, the games they make influence and are influence by culture, and they need to know that.[slide (meme) "THEY CALLED ME SOCIAL JUSTICE WARRIOR - I AM SO HONORED"]A lot of them have grown up in these online games cultures that perpetuate this, this really profound misconception that, because video games are fun, that means they're just for fun. And they think that games exist in this apolitical vacuum, and that when we think of them as expressions of culture, that's just for so-called "social justice warriors". But we, we in this room, know better than that, we know that the games we make and that our students make, it represents a, something that really matters in the world. Right.[slide (pictures of students around tables playing with 'kits')]And in my experience once students enter the classroom, some of them can be shaken of this misconception quickly. Usually these are students who are women, or queer people, or people of colour, or people with disabilities. They're the students who don't have the prililege of pretending, like they don't see the discrimination in games. And they don't see how these larger forces of society and power, can be a force of change. Right, through games. And these are just some of my amazing USC students. Being amazing.[slide (girl stomping around/old woman looks on)]But there are other students who respond to this idea that games and games designers has social meaning with indignation. So I recently gave a talk to a class of first years, that included a discussion of colonialist themes in no-mans sky. Two me.. two students stood up. And stormed out. [faint laughter]. The remaining 48 engaged in a lively debate. So I say, let those two walk out. Let them see that no amount of arm-crossing and dramatic groaning can bully us into sanitizing their games education.[slide (play-dough/Plasticine monsters)]We have an ethical imperative to shape out students into creators who are, at the very least, aware of how social issues intersect with their games.[slide (childs drawing of a cats face)]Now I'm not arguing that our students should be only be making serious games, games for change. By all means have them make cute games. Or strange games. Or even violent games. This by the way is from an exercise we did in class the day after the election. Where we were working on self-care by making these strenge, silly, sticky-notes comics. But even when students make games like that, these silly games or violent games, they need to be asking themselves the right questions. They need to ask themselves questions like, who am I representing in my game. What values does this game communicate.[slide (pixel art with text "are you a boy or a girl")]So here's an example. Three different undergraduate teams and three different programs made three different 2D side-scrollers. And they were all in some way about gender. Which sounds great, right. So the first one is about navigating childhood social situations as a non-binary person.[slide (old beach photo with child drawn character overlays)]The second one. Is about a about gay men at a sit-in Los Angeles, and they're fighting off the police by kissing.[slide (corgi dog in bright outfit)]And the third one, which I'm not going to show you a screenshot of. Is about shooting women in bikinis who happen to have the faces of famous feminist authors. Which one of these games is not like the others. It's this one. Sorry corgis. The students who made this feminists in bikinis game weren't trying to be misogynistic, they were trying to be funny. In fact, on paper, they did a good job. They successfully demonstrated their technical skills, and teamwork. And now on their portfolios, when they show them to potential employers, they have a game that's well developed and tone-deaf as hell.[slide (angry cat face)]These students needed someone to step in and say "hey, this is why this is not gonna fly". They needed more courses that explicitly linked games with society. They needed more opportunities to practice analysing games, not because they're going to go off and become scholars per se, but because, they need to be better critical thinkers. They need to understand why they're making, what they're making and what messages it sends.[slide (**** and **** van Dyke)]Then, if they still want to be dicks, they can be dicks on purpose. [faint laughter]. This is not a one-time issue, or unlikely edge case, right. Socially unaware games are being made in our games programs every day. So what can we do about it.[slide "VIDEO GAMES ARE POLITICAL. THE WAY WE MAKES GAMES IS POLITICAL. THE WAY THAT WE TEACH OUT STUDENTS TO MAKE GAMES IS POLITICAL"]First we lead by example. We accept that video games are political. That the way we make video games is political. And that the way that we teach students to make video games is political. That's true regardless of our personal politics, or the personal politics of our students. That is just true.[slide "BE ACTIVE ADVOCATES, NOT "ALLIES""]We speak candidly about the social and ethical and challenges that we face in our creative practices. We participate in the cultures of our department and build constructive dialogue. We become active advocates, and not just well intentioned allies. So I know lots of wonderful games faculty, people I really admire say, I don't bring politics into my classroom. Guess what.[slide "YOUR CLASSROOM IS ALREADY POLITICAL"]Politics are already in your classroom. Identity and culture and the risk of reinforcing oppression, and the power to do social good. Those are already in your classroom. They're in the transgender student who is too distracted to pay attention to your discussion on level design, because they're frantically searching for information about how they get their gender legally changed before new anti-LGBT legislation sets in, right. They're the Muslim students can't travel with your team, with their team to show off their game, because they're afraid of being harassed by the TSA. Or they're in subtler moments, right. Like, maybe a student whose on the autism spectrum, whose uncomfortable speaking out in large groups. And can't figure out how to make themselves heard in a room full of outspoken, gamers.[slide (book cover and author picture?)]So pedagogy is one thing that we can do, its something we can all do, right now, right. We can give readings like "Values are Play in Digital Games". We can assign videos from the advocacy track in the GDC Vault. One of my students favorites is Tod Harper's "Trails and Pitfalls of Fatness in Games". To name just a few examples, right.[slide (picture Pokemon NO - "Warning: Pokemon GO is a Death Sentence if you're a Black Man". News article headline: "Gaming's favorite villain is mental illness, and this needs to stop"]There are articles about how playing Pokemon GO can put black men's lives in danger. Or about how using mental illness as a game mechanic can make for good design, but socially irresponsible game making.[slide (LIM/female assassin's creed character)]We can have our students play games like LIM, or Assassin's Creed which are games that use design to explore racial or gender passing.[slide (book cover) "TEACH EARLY TEACH OFTEN"]We need to do these things like was already said up here that early and often. Teaching students to make socially aware games isn't a challenge that's solvable with just one lecture or just one course. The design and development of games can't be separated from culture, and students need to learn that from the very beginning. I know that revamping a games program, or even a single course is difficult, I'm part of the team at UCI that's revamping the games major as we speak. And I totally recognise that sometimes we have prioritise what's mission critical.[slide (picture of corgi dog wearing jet pack)]This is missing critical. Our students need this. Socially aware students make better games. They make this work that they can be proud to share throughout their career because its thoughtful and well informed. The games industry needs this. Our students are the next generation of developers. They're the ones who can bring change to video games and make them more inclusive.[slide "WE CAN CHANGE THIS"]And you know what, we need this. Right, there's never been a more crucial moment to train our students to be politically engaged citizens. They're struggling with their place in the world today, and we are struggling too. This is not the time to pretend like the craft of game making stands separate from those struggles. This is a time to get angry. A time to challenge our students, to empower them and to design hope. Thank you. [applause].